A group of villagers from Gathi in Sindhupalchowk, about 100 kilometres from Kathmandu, stand along the Araniko Highway to gather provisions – a sack of rice and a packet of salt – that have finally arrived on Sunday evening, a full eight days after the earthquake. Bal Bahadur Shrestha tells me how every house in his village has been flattened and razed to the ground. They have been surviving on the food they already had before the earthquake which they managed to secure from the rubble, or from their neighbours – chiura, makai and roti (beaten rice, corn and dry bread) which are the only things that survived the devastation.
Already there is an altercation, as one man is being accused of taking two bags of rice instead of one; each house in the village is to get exactly one portion of rice and salt. Shrestha is worried about how long this will last, as his family consists of ten people, and there is no information about when further provisions will arrive. His family size is average for the village of 150 houses.
The earthquake has created severe cracks in the ground and damaged every standing building in Shrestha’s village. Because the school is destroyed as well, he is not certain when his children will be able to resume any form of regular activity. A farmer, he is not likely to return to work anytime soon, as his farm is currently buried under the debris of concrete and rubble. He says it is tiring to live in constant fear and dread of aftershocks which still continue. The nearby Bhotekoshi River, one of the tributaries of the Koshi, contains three corpses which have still not been removed. From a distance, Shrestha says, all he can tell is that they are the bodies of one woman and two men, neither of them recognisable to him.
The people gathered there say they are more sad than angry at the lack of police or army presence in all these days. Not far from the Barabise Bazaar, which is severely damaged as well, and along the Araniko Highway, Gathi village is better connected than most others. But landslides, most of them a result of the earthquake, have blocked access to villages like Gathi and help is trickling in slowly. In the morning, the people of Gathi were told provisions were on their way. Shrestha, along with others had already made three anxious trips through the day down to the main road in anticipation. At five in the evening, the women sitting around with their bags of rice look tired.
~Puja Sen is an assistant editor at Himal Southasian.
~‘Notes from the field’ is a reporting initiative, where we bring stories of the people and places that have been affected by the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal.